BEIJING: Alibaba, the internet giant, has identified a group of high-spending online consumers in China to whom special treatment is afforded and who in turn can help drive sales of luxury brands.

Using an algorithm that takes account of a number of factors – including how much e-shoppers spend on Tmall and Taobao, how often they shop online, the range of products purchased, their credit record and their engagement in online communities – some 100,000 people have qualified for APASS membership.

This is the Alibaba Passport, a program that assigns personal account managers and organises special events; members also get offered exclusive daily deals from top brands.

Inside Retail Asia related how a party of ten APASS members recently went on a nine-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Italy.

While they were there they visited eight top Italian brands, ranging from wine producer Mezzacorona to luxury carmaker Maserati, with Alibaba livestreaming these on Tmall and Youku.

As well as generating views, likes and comments, Tmall reported that sales of the online shops of the eight brands had increased more than five times over the livestreaming period compared with sales during the nine days preceding the event.

While wealth is clearly a major criterion for APASS membership – there is a minimum spend level of $15,000 a year, but the average is actually closer to $45,000 – there are other common factors, as Alibaba observed they tended to be very family-oriented while also liking to pursue personal achievements.

It broke APASS members into four broad groups, including young mothers, engaged millennials, business leaders and young entrepreneurs.

"They are opinion leaders who drive the consumption trend among China's middle class," said Zheng Dongyang, senior manager of the APASS program.

Data sourced from Inside Retail Asia; additional content by Warc staff